Category Archives: Reading

Frank Kitamoto: From shame to fame

A green van pulled alongside the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal and an elderly man, sporting a graying moustache and eyebrows, stepped out and greeted me in his cheery voice.

Dr. Frank Kitamoto, 65, the president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese Community (BIJAC), apologized for being late. He had been conducting a 55-minute slide presentation about the Japanese Internment during World War II to six classes in a local elementary school since 8 a.m. That, he said with a sigh of satisfied exhaustion, is his passion.

But little is known that Kitamoto used to struggle with his identity of being a Japanese when he was growing up. Sitting in a classroom mainly filled with Caucasians, he struggled with being in his own skin. The turning point came years later when a stranger reminded him “he was just like anyone else.”

“Gosh, I wished I was white then,” he said as we arrived at his dental office. He settled himself into a plush sofa in his office. The left wall in the office was filled from top to bottom with photo frames of his family, his wedding photos, and of the Japanese internment in Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho

The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, led to the U.S government suspicion of Japanese Americans. Two months later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066 that led to the forced relocation of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans to concentration camps in Idaho and California. Kitamoto and his family were among the 227 Bainbridge Japanese Americans, first of the 120,000, to be relocated on March 30, 1942. He was only two and the half years old then.

After World War II, Kitamoto returned to Bainbridge Island. However, the post-war atmosphere was not conducive in shaping his sense of identity. Yet, he overcame his identity crisis and sought to promote and preserve the history and culture of the Japanese Americans.

Here is the story of how a boy embraced his identity and became instrumental in shaping the American history today.

“It was hard growing up on Bainbridge, where there was nothing in school that talked about contributions of the minorities. It was hard to have a sense of identity,” said Kitamoto.

Ironically, the Japanese were pioneers on Bainbridge in the 19th century. They came to America for better prospects after the Meiji Restoration displaced the agricultural community with rapid industrialization. The Japanese became farmers on the island,

providing about seventy-five percent of western Washington’s vegetables and strawberries.

Yet, all this was never told in the history books. “All the pioneers were whites, which was not the case,” said Kitamoto. From elementary to high school, Kitamoto always hung out with the caucasians. His best friend, Tom Thatcher, was also white. Kitamoto never thought it was a good deal to be a Japanese.

“Frank never mentioned anything about going through the Japanese internment. It was like it never existed,” Thatcher said.

Thatcher described Kitamoto as being popular among students due to his multiple leadership positions and said he earned the admiration of girls. But the friendships were confined to school. “Frank would go home after school to help in his family berry- farming business. Many whites played basketball, but Frank did not as he was short.”

The turning point came when Kitamoto, then in college, attended a seminar for the Church of Christ youth group leaders. After the seminar, a Caucasian woman approached him and said: “ It’s the first time I’ve spent time with a Japanese and you are just like anyone else.”

That jolted him to the reality that no matter how hard he tried to be white, people still noticed the difference in skin color. He reached a state of epiphany: He was just as significant as anyone else despite his heritage.

“It was time I started caring about myself and finding out who I am,” said Kitamoto. When he got married and had a child, he did not want his son to go through what he did. It was this objective that brought him and his church friend, Ronald Nakata together on the oral history project in 1982.

The project aimed to collect pictures and oral accounts from Japanese Americans to preserve and promote their heritage. It was an uphill task.

After returning to Bainbridge, the Japanese Americans resumed their daily lives and swept the pains of the internment under the carpet. It was seen as being disrespectful to the government to criticize what they did, said Kitamoto. Children grew up without knowing what happened to their parents.

“People got mad at us and refused to cooperate, calling us ‘angry young men’,” recalls Kitamoto. They were afraid of being discriminated against if they brought the matter up. But he persevered and got the support of five other Japanese Americans. “We pounded our way through, and soon, more and more people were willing to open up.”

Kitamoto was instrumental in strengthening the ties of the Japanese community on Bainbridge and celebrating its ethnicity. He put together the first Teriyaki dinner and

mochi-making session to foster community pride. “If Frank was not there to passionately push for this event, it wouldn’t have continued till now,” said Clarence Moriwaki, vice-president of BIJAC. The BIJAC annual Reunion Potluck Picnic is still a well-received event among the community.

Kitamoto’s passion is not limited to Bainbridge. He traveled all over Washington and other states such as Oklahoma to conduct slide presentations to schools. The slides contained pictures and information about the history of the Japanese Americans.

Kitamoto uses the presentations to convey a deeper message about self-acceptance. “Children need to feel okay about who they are and realize they don’t have to be white to be successful.”

That mirrors his life philosophy too: “Do no harm and help people to become all they can become.” His favorite quote by Abraham Lincoln shows his peace-loving nature: “I don’t like that man, I got to know him better.”

“There is not a negative bone in him,” said his elder sister, Lily Kodama.

Kitamoto’s passion meant that his dental practice was often put on hold. “Frank could have been a wealthier man if he had not been so dedicated to his passion,” said Moriwaki. He set aside two rooms in his dental office to store the historical memorabilia for the upcoming memorial for the Japanese Americans who went through the internment. These rooms could have been rented, generating more income. Furthermore, his office is in a strategic location with high volume of traffic.

But Kitamoto considers wealth as secondary. “Though I am really tight on paying bills, I have decided that is not the most important thing. I wished I had more life to continue what I’m doing now,” he said.

Nevertheless, Kitamoto is wealthy in other ways. In 2000, he was awarded Island Treasure by Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council for his commitment to preserving the Japanese community history. Congressman Jay Inslee honored him in U.S. Congress in 2003 for his dedication to his community.

Despite all his accomplishments, Kitamoto remains humble and focused on his passion. “He donates all of his time for free, taking time away from his dental practice to work with school children and other interested groups on the Japanese Americans history,” said Karen Matsumoto, a BIJAC member who worked with Kitamoto on the memorial.

“My brother has always been a leader, a pioneer in every right,” said Mrs. Kodamo. This was confirmed by an analysis of his character by naturopathic Jack Schwartz. “He said I was a cosmic turtle, someone who don’t see things to completion.” Kitamoto likes to delicate work to others. “I’m not a good organizer of information, but ideas just pop into my head,” he said. He sees himself as a seed planter.

When asked how many he had handed over to others, he replied: “All the projects,” and broke into his signature hearty laughter. “Well, except for the slide presentations,” he added.

Kitamoto’s influence ripples through the Japanese community on Bainbridge. “Frank is my role model, and he constantly inspires me through his kindness, dedication to the truth, and deep understanding of the importance of working toward social justice and upholding our civil liberties,” said Ms. Matsumoto.

Even his elder sister Mrs. Kodama salutes him: “I look up to him as my mentor instead of the other way round. When we see something that is not right, we will talk about it. But Frank will act upon it.”

Faith, this is well done. I like your decision to emphasize his identity quest as the theme of the story. And you return to that idea toward the end. I’ve edited a bit, so please let me know if you have questions. 19

Week 9: A network where everyone has equal status, working hand in hand and sharing information is a form of utopia

After reading Manuel Castell’s network logic, it seems that he is predicting a future where social hierarchy cease to exist, but is replaced by a society organized by networks. The world then functions on a joint collaboration, where globalization is no longer a darn word by some protectionist activists, but something beneficial. And most of these will take place within the media space. It is power to the people online! Without dominance of a particular group, information can flow freely, no more copyrights restrictions, blah blah.

But think about it, isn’t this state of the world a little too far fetched? Without copyright, where is the motivation for innovation? There’s no free meal in this world, you need to pay for the technology that brings you the free stuff on the Internet too! Sure, I have benefited from the free stuff on the Internet by P2P networks, but there must be balance between what is supposed to be shared and what is not supposed to be shared.

For instance, when we think of freebies, we often think of them as low quality and unwanted. And when a product is priced, it adds value and credibility to it. Hence, when everything is free and with no value attached to it, it brings us back to the age of communism where products are badly produced by workers who have no incentive to work hard. Similarly, a network society is like a communist state. There is no motivation to move up the social ladder.

Yet, I am not totally against Castell’s vision, because it has some weight in what he says too. But that is only if the networks are social networking services, wikis, community-based classifieds, online phone services, and my favorite of all times, open source software such as NeoOffice that allows me to enjoy “Microsoft” at zero cost.

But I don’t want my government to run on an open source concept! I don’t want to have other politicians from other countries editing any constitution any way he likes. For a society to function, there must be some sort of dominant institution that oversees the running of it, while still allowing a network of feedback to flourish among the grassroots. Hence, not all situations can succeed under a network system.

Questions:

1) How can we back up our data that is stored on Web 2.0 style service in the event that the creator does a disappearing act?

2) How would you envision a future where everything is link by networks and run by communities? How successful would that be?

Week 8: Blogosphere—To Censor or not?

When I had a vacation job, I had to sign a contract to keep trade secrets secret. Hence, I often self-censor myself when I whined to my friends about my job in case I spill the beans accidentally. This was especially so when I worked as a clinic assistant in a hospital’s urology department. Patients’ conditions must be kept confidential However, I often liked to joke about how men came in and asked for Viagra and consulted the doctor on their sex life. They often talk in softer tone when I am around and I was once asked to leave the consultation room for the patient’s privacy.

The contract was to prevent me from divulging any trade secrets. However, what if I am a whistle blower who discovered some malpractice in the hospital and work with a journalist to break this news story in the form of collaborative investigative journalism? I am breaking the terms of the contract and will face legal actions, yet what I do will benefit the public. There must be some sort of legal protection for the whistleblower for the collaborative journalism idea to work. Or do so anonymously. This brings me to the point on privacy issue.

Privacy is often valued by Americans, yet for the blogosphere to be seen as a credible source, internet veteran Jamais Cascio said that some form of social change has to be made to reduce the threat arising from disclosure of personal information. How can we achieve this state when privacy rights are so prized? Are we willing to sacrifice some privacy for open access to information?

Personally, I am reluctant to. I don’t want the whole world to know what I am doing. Like how Marian Lu does not divulge too much personal information on her working blog vs her personal blog, a line of balance needs to be drawn. However, I am more concerned about what Gilmor said about government surveillance on the Internet.

This concern, which often leads to heavy self-censorship, stemmed from my experience in Singapore. A few years ago, a student was charged in court making racist remarks against the Muslims on his blog. The daughter of a politician was made to do community service for discriminating against the poor and making elitist comments on her blog. Closer to heart, a student in my high school was disqualified from running for the student council elections after badmouthing the election committee on her blog.

However, free speech does not mean irresponsible speech. We self-censor because we are afraid of the consequences. Given that the blogosphere serves as a feedback system, the government, in my opinion, can take a back seat in surveilling the Internet.

Questions:
1) How does the blog insurance work and what are the costs and benefits of having one?
2) What do you think are the guidelines that should govern what a blogger should and should not write?

Week 7: While blogs are good advocacy tools, they may be also abused to further controversial causes

Blogs are serving not just journalistic purposes, but also advocacy purposes. This is what I like about blogs, they provide an inexpensive yet expansive platform to publicly voice our opinions and garner support from the community, or engage in civic discourse with people who disagree with our stands. It is also an advertising platform to announce any fundraising events, protests and demonstrations. An advocacy blog is a good follow-up and prelude to a major event. It makes people talk and keeps them talking. I can’t stop singing praises of the function of blogs in the area of advocacy. However, imagine if a blog is used to advocate some controversial topics such as terrorism. A blog can be manipulated for people’s own selfish agenda. But how can the content and functions of a blog be controlled such that only the good blogs are allowed? Is that even ethical since the Internet is free for all. If we screen blogs, then the pornography websites should be the first to go. I believe that authorities are working on how to prevent people from setting up blogs with controversial content. God forbid one day that we will have to go to the Department of Online Communication to register for a license to own a blog, and we are all unified under one blog host, http://www.unclesamspeaks.com. The result will be blogs that support the government, the big corporations and good citizenship. And when there is heavy government censorship, alternative voices will be driven to alternative mediums. Like in the case of Russia, with strong censorship, many take to blogging to advocate their beliefs. Perhaps in the future, there will be other forms of alternative medium that allows dissidents to go underground.

Coming back to the present, Cascio said that traditional journalists should be willing to cite their sources, which is in some sense, a form of insult to their pride. Journalists often view bloggers as amateurs. How can they provide me with any accurate information? Why can’t I find them myself? After all, who has the most credentials? A professional or an amateur? This answer is obvious if we are talking about a doctor and a pundit. However, the root of journalism is people. Without people, there will not be any story. Journalism is about reporting daily events that involve ordinary people. We are the producers while the people are the actors on the stage called daily publication. We work with amateurs to add flavor to our news. Hence, it should never be a loss of pride to cite the bloggers as our source. In fact, it shows the journalist’s acknowledgement of the increasing collaboration between traditional and the alternative. And citing, is after all, a professional thing to do.

1) What are the argument for and against screening of blogs and only allowing blogs that advocate a good cause?
2) What are the ways in which we can push for social changes that reduce the threat arising from disclosure of personal information?

Week 6 Reading: We need to strike a balance on objectivity and accuracy on the blogosphere

Based on my previous post on how the Internet can become a good source of tip-offs for a reporter, this week’s reading on “Troll, Spin and Boundaries of Trust”, gives me the flip side of it. What if they are fabricated news? What if they are merely unethical marketing tools of a company or a slander? Hence, it reminds me once again that a journalist has to do her homework before falling into the trap of getting a scoop.

However, this is tough work for me alone. I would be stretched just verifying every single information that I get, especially if I have to go through tight gatekeepers in organizations (i.e. secretaries, PROs). Hence, using the online community to fact check each other is a self-correcting way of the Internet. Open conversation allows for collaborative scrutinizing of information on the community. I just read a post on UC Berkeley’s Crisis in News on the future of investigative reporting. Would it be more collaborative, with grassroots helping the team of reporters in their information search? This is so much easier and efficient with the Internet now as whistle blowers can provide insider information and yet maintain anonymity on the Internet. However, while the Internet is good in protecting one’s identity, how can the reporters trust the information if there is no solid identity backing it up? Once again, a balance needs to be stuck and conditions set on how collaborative investigative journalism in future should work. Perhaps have everyone registered under the investigative citizen journalism network, but allowed to use a nickname that cannot be changed. All registered information will be kept confidential. This way, information can be easily verified and credibility maintained.

Yet, in the age of the demise of the newspapers, many news organizations are fighting to attract readers on the newsstands. “We need breaking news story before the rival news companies get it!” If there is a tip-off from a source, would reporters share this information on the Internet and allow the whole world to see it? Not only are they risking getting their story stolen by rival newspapers, but also alerting the parties being investigated. How inclusive and exclusive can this network of investigative citizen journalism get?

And will groupthink make matters worse? What if everyone listens to an opinion leader and come up with information that points to the parties involved being guilty? I have always thought of groupthink as a double-edged sword to an online community, but after reading Coolican’s article, I realized that can happen among the journalism profession too. Hence, we need more of the online community to give us diverse opinions. Yet, how diverse are their opinions?

Questions:
1) How can we resolve groupthink in the journalism profession?
2) How exclusive and inclusive can collaborative investigative journalism go?

Week 5 reading: Stir a revolution at your own desk

As Gilmor mentioned in this week’s reading that blogging is an act of civic engagement and showed us examples of how blogging has given those that are oppressed a voice, I am more and more convinced that blogging thrives in a society that lacks a free press.

When there isn’t freedom of speech and when the press acts as a mouthpiece of the government, people will look for an alternative medium to get the right information. (If not, they are simply too brainwashed and the government’s propaganda has worked.) Hence, blogging provides a relatively safe environment for people to post information and voice their dissentients against the status quo. The web provides a safety net for bloggers with open source softwares such as anonymity proxies software that can be downloaded on the Internet or by emailing counterparts from democratic countries to publish it online for them. Bit by bit, I believe, a community with the same spirit against the oppression will emerge and possibly bring about a revolution.

However, this may be too optimistic on my part. Gilmore mentioned that blogging and democracy belongs to the class of the elites. How can these online voices be heard if most of the population cannot even read or write, much less own a computer? Hence, more help should be rendered to the developing countries to help them advance their technology. Yet one must remember that the West cannot enforce its technological practice onto the developing countries but do what the Romans do.

Also, since the blogosphere belongs to the class of the elites, the content likewise will be tailored to them. No doubt there are diversity in the blogosphere, with blogs on any topic you can think of, from sewing to cupcakes to politics. You name it, you have it.
However, they have variety but no diversity. Variety means that there are many blogs under the domain of politics, but under this umbrella, are there a variety of diverse voices? Are they merely blogs echoing each other’s opinions?

Nevertheless, blogs in a specific domain are getting specialized too. And this is what I am excited about. This means that you can write about anything or find information you are passionate about and form a community. Better still turn it into a profitable business model! Probably I shall do that when I retire. Easy money.

Questions:
1) How do we ensure diversity of content in the blogosphere, given the fact that blogging belongs to the class of the elites?
2) How can blogging help the developing countries?

Individual reading: the 11 layers of citizen journalism

Finally, the answer that I have always been looking for is found in The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism, a step-by-step approach in dealing with the changing landscape of journalism by integrating the professional with the amateur. Finally, all my optimism about the future of the industry has not let me down.

The ll layers can be seen like layers on a wedding cake, where the layers ultimately adds up to the ideal and perfect stage.

1) Opening up to public comment is the first baby step to integrating the community with the professionals, giving an interactive and new dimension to the newspaper. News are a whole lot richer with more input from the community that a reporter may have missed or have insufficient resources to find. Comments can be made for virtually everything such as classified ads, weather, obituary.
2) Citizens add-on approach allows citizens to add their personal experiences or information along with the stories to give a side bar full of stories!
3) Open source reporting is inviting the citizens to be part of your reporting process, in terms of research, interview questions, reporting and writing. Of course, credit them to maintain quality (we all have a capitalistic mindset)!
4) Citizen Bloghouse: Invite outstanding and prominent bloggers to blog for your news website so that you can maintain quality of blogs as well as draw online traffic to your website. Of course, this may break the rice bowls of professional columnists.
5) Newsroom citizens transparency blog: Have an online ombudsmen, he will respond faster to you.
6) The stand-alone citizen-journalism site: Edited version: let citizens blog with minimal editing, hence the news gathered can be more localized and specific.
7) The stand-alone citizen-journalism site: Unedited version: give the citizens freedom to blog and let them moderate themselves. Wash your hands off any unnecessary lawsuits just in case!
8) Add a print edition: Combine the best stories and photos and organize them into different sections like a newspaper and publish them, giving blogs a sense of professionalism and spurring the bloggers to work harder.
9) The hybrid: Pro + citizen journalism: Both parties work together to produce content on a news website.
10) Integrating citizen and pro journalism under one roof: Having both parties work alongside each other to complement the content of the paper.
11) Wiki-journalism: totally no editor-blogger relationship. Horizontal structure where everyone is an editor cum journalist.

However, this may seem like an ideal stage of journalism. But will it work?

Questions:
1) How will this form of citizen journalism work in countries with no free press?
2) How can truth be verified in the citizen journalist’s content?